Amidst a spirit of celebration, Cathy Schlebusch’s remarkable journey through 102 years of life was honored by loved ones and well-wishers. The occasion served as a touching tribute to a woman whose story is woven with dedication, faith, and service to both her community and her beliefs.
“Her life’s dedication to serving both the Lord and fellow beings resonated strongly,” shared by Matron Jenny Wesson, the Manager of Ons Tuis: Van Rensburg
Born as Catherine Elizabeth Conrad on August 20, 1921, at the Mamre’s German Moravian Mission Station, located approximately 59 kilometers from Cape Town, Cathy’s early years were imbued with happiness and affection. However, at the tender age of six, her mother succumbed to tuberculosis (TB), altering the course of her life. Her brother, Sakkie, was three years old at the time.
“I can still recollect the joyful moments spent with my mother – the music, the singing, the dancing! Her departure cast a profound impact on my life. Yet, my unwavering resolve and unwavering faith in God carried me through this trying phase. Our lives took a different path when we returned to my grandfather and extended family in Sea Point,” Cathy reflected.
This chapter saw her integration into the Anglican church, successful completion of her education, and the nurturing of cherished teenage memories.
“My upbringing in a deeply devout household laid the foundation for the journey my life took. Guided by divine grace, I managed to stay steadfast. As a child, our Lord held my hand and led me to where I stand today. For this, I am full of praise, singing to His glory,” she said.
By the age of 21, Cathy had embraced the role of an Anglican nun, embarking on her dream of becoming a teacher. Her calling led her to Zambia, where she took charge as the headmistress of a mission school near Lusaka, pioneering education for young girls in the region.
While battling recurring bouts of malaria, Cathy returned to South Africa after an impactful eight-year tenure and continued her work in Grahamstown, a role that encompassed both managing an orphanage and teaching. This era led her to a captivating proposition to undertake a brief assignment in England, a journey that would unexpectedly span a decade.
Upon her homecoming, Cathy assumed the mantle of Matron at a Methodist Home for the Elderly in Klerksdorp. This phase saw her growing affinity for the Salvation Army, where she found companionship with like-minded friends. It was during this juncture that she encountered Ben Schlebush, a fellow associate of the Salvation Army Children’s Home. Their shared spiritual devotion unfolded at the St Albans Cathedral, a place where he worked as a boilermaker and welder.
“In the choir of St Albans Cathedral, I found my voice, and Ben and I found each other. I would sit in the choir loft, while he occupied a central pew. As I made my way to the altar for communion, he would take my hand as I passed his pew, and together we received the sacrament,” she recounted with a smile.
The couple also indulged in the pleasure of Saturday nights, often dining and dancing at a local hotel. Cathy recollected with fondness, “One year, Ben even claimed the Cha-Cha championship title! We shared nine happy years, until his passing in 1996 at the age of 74.”
Cathy’s journey eventually led her to retirement in 2013, where she found a new home at Ons Tuis: Louis Trichardt. In 2015, a hip replacement procedure at Kalafong Hospital prompted her transition to Ons Tuis: Van Rensburg, a residence conveniently situated in the same vicinity and equipped with facilities for frail care.